The second of two launch days for the Interim Information Guide: Adolescent to Parent Violence and Abuse took place in London on Monday. (The first was in Manchester last week.) Despite the short notice, brought about by looming general election clogging up the works of the Home Office, there was an excited and positive response both days from the 100+ delegates from across management, commissioning and frontline services.
Chris Ashley from the Home Office introduced the day, placing the guidance document in the context of broader work to combat domestic violence and abuse; looking specifically at the success of Domestic Violence Protection Orders and at the capturing of coercive and controlling behaviours through the Serious Crimes Act 2015. Tensions inherent in the interface of safeguarding of parent and adolescent, and in bringing charges in cases involving young people’s violence were raised in questions, where parents are still being held to account despite guidance circulars sent to magistrates a couple of years ago.
Rachel Condry then led us through the journey to the creation of the document. At the final conference for the Oxford APV research project, the need for clear guidance for practitioners had been raised. This was taken up by Anne-Marie Harris, then of the Youth Justice Board, and a working party created, first within the YJB and then moving to the Home Office. The guidance meets the recommendations of action points 63 and 139 in the 2014 document: A Call to End Violence Against Women and Girls, “Develop and disseminate information for practitioners working with children and families on how to identify and address the risks posed by adolescent to parent violence.” The working group brought individuals together from a range of disciplines with many contributing to the final guide.
Following an introduction where definitions, prevalence and challenges are discussed, and a general advice section relevant to all practitioners, there are sections for health service providers, education, social care, housing, police and youth justice, and then some useful resources at the end. Each section looks at relevant policy or legislation, encouraging disclosure, wider responsibilities and possible ways forward. With a shortage of services around the country, it will remain difficult to find specialist help for some time, but it is intended that this will improve the response of all professionals as they encounter families struggling with the issue of adolescent to parent violence and abuse. Still an interim guide* as we wait for the final sign off, it was suggested that this might soon itself become obsolete as different agencies take ownership of the issue and develop clearer guidelines themselves. Nevertheless, having all the services together in one document makes it easier to know what colleagues should or could be doing, as well as our own responsibilities. It was great to see this latest iteration after all the drafting that went on. It’s well laid out and easy to read.
An expert panel (Rachel Condry, Helen Bonnick, Gudrun Burnet, Amanda Holt and Karl Mittelstadt) took questions from the floor, which covered concerns such as the prevalence of mental health diagnosis, safety planning and risk assessments, holding together the safety needs of the child and the parent, developmental issues in terms of the different needs of a 12 year old and a 16 year old, familial homicides and finally, a big concern, the fear that momentum might now be lost either with a change in government or with future cuts to funding of services. We were very much encouraged by the words of Karl Mittelstadt from the Youth Justice Board, and the suggestion that the General Election should be seen as an opportunity to reframe and realign the work on APV, taking the emphasis away from criminal justice and towards a more holistic understanding and approach.
In the afternoon delegates considered a number of questions in groups, now thinking of how to take the work forwards in their own area, and then fed back to the whole meeting. People were encouraged to be immensely practical and identify even small things that could make a difference locally, whether in terms of scoping the prevalence of APV, identifying key people within their organisation or area to lobby, or raising awareness within their team. Some, more senior managers, will be pressing for development at a strategic level.
As the day drew to a close there was encouragement at the energy and interest generated by the event. Will the momentum keep up? That is now up to all of us!
* I am pleased to say that the guide was published at the end of the week and is now publicly available. See my next post for more details.